It has been a month since that day that it happened. I never thought it could happen to me. But it did. I got that phone call saying it happened. It was a terrible car accident. Mom didn’t make it and dad is in the hospital. Shock, disbelief, denial. Not possible.
There has been some time now for it to sink in. But it doesn’t really sink in, just a little bit sometimes. And that’s enough sadness until the next time it sinks in.
Here is a video made as a memorial to Mom. She has a beautiful smile that reaches her eyes.
My brother, Tim, said this at Mom’s funeral:
The early years of our family involved a lot of change. Mom and dad shared a love for travel, adventure, and helping people. After their marriage in 1969 they spent 2 years in Sierra Leone and several years later, 6 months in Bangladesh. During those early years, there were also stints in Hamilton, Nova Scotia, and Guelph before we ‘settled’ as a family in the Stratford area. I use the term ‘settled’ somewhat loosely as I recall moving 5 times as a kid just within the Stratford area. Regardless of where they went, they were able to quickly absorb themselves into new communities, in large part because of mom’s outgoing and friendly nature.
As our family continued to increase our roster up to 7 children, including 2 foster kids, life in the Van Dijk household could be described as ranging anywhere between lively and chaotic.
Despite the number of kids, we were not restricted (actually required to) be involved in various extracurricular activities that included skating lessons, hockey, soccer, baseball, piano lessons, 4H club, church groups, among other things. Our parents wanted us to stay busy and develop our talents as much as possible.
Mom tried to instill in us a good work ethic. We were expected to do our share of work around the house and were given our lists of chores – yard work, gardening, house cleaning, shoe polishing, dish washing, barn chores, etc. But she also did a lot herself by going non-stop with housework and errands from morning to evening. In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, she supported dad with his business, drove us around to all of our activities, was involved with various volunteer activities with the church and Christian school, and also made time to connect with and help out various people that she got to know along the way.
She was always out running around doing her various errands. One problem she had was staying on schedule, or you could also say that she operated on her own schedule. In grade 3, Shanti wrote an essay about her mom which included a comment that said “I never know when mom is going to get home.” Part of the reason for this is that she would take the time to have a conversation with everyone that she encountered during her running around. This habit never changed as many people here today will know. This is what she enjoyed the most – being able to connect with people and build relationships, either meeting new people or getting up to date with old acquaintances and friends.
Sports was a big part of our family activities. Mom was the anomaly in that regard as she had little interest or ability in athletics. When she did try sports like skiing, tennis, and skating, they were quickly ended by injuries. But she went into everything with total exuberance and perhaps a bit of recklessness. She was our biggest supporter when it came to our participation in sports – she would come to our games and cheer us on loudly and enthusiastically even if she wasn’t quite sure what was going on. A year ago at Christmas, we had a family road hockey game and mom was one of the goalies. She was by far the most animated participant, yelling encouragement at everyone from beginning to end of the game.
Mom thrived on having get–togethers with family and friends, whether it was a one-on-one cup of coffee with a friend or a large group event. She really enjoyed attending large events like weddings and reunions as it allowed her to interact most efficiently with a lot of people. She was a great facilitator and organized many family reunions and get-togethers, updated contact lists and did what she could to ensure that everyone could stay in touch with each other.
Another characteristic of mom was frugality. She never threw anything away that could possibly have a use one day. If we needed something fairly random such as a neon shoelace, she would conduct a quick search and come up with the required item. Nothing was wasted. Growing up, the use of luxury food items such as jam, honey, cheese, bacon, etc was tightly regulated, tea bags were reused, and leftovers was a weekly meal. I have to admit that although I don’t reuse tea bags, I’m still very careful about the amount of honey I put on my toast. If something in the fridge looked like was about to turn bad, it was just cooked a bit longer. We had a laugh this week when we pulled frozen leftovers out of the freezer that was stored in a ziplock bag for men’s long johns.
In 2000, my parents returned to Ontario from Newfoundland, and this marked a new phase in their lives. All the children had left the house and they were returning ‘home’ in a sense. This also marked a new phase as they began to dedicate more of their time and energy towards overseas ministry and aid work, particularly in Sierra Leone which was emerging from a civil war. They went into this together, dad focusing more on the agricultural side and mom helping out with the Orphanage and coordinating the mass shipment of items to Sierra Leona by shipping container. The shipping container projects fit perfectly with her personality in that:
1. She was able to help people.
2. It allowed her to organize and run around collecting items from various people, which gave her lots of opportunity to interact with many different people and get them involved.
3. Allowed her to prevent many unneeded and obsolete items from going to waste, which fits with her trait of not throwing anything out.
Mom was very thoughtful towards people in addition to just being social. I’ve heard more than a few stories in the past few days about mom stopping by unexpectedly to give someone a gift or a card even if they weren’t particularly close. She liked to make people feel good. When talking to people, she genuinely wanted to know how they and their family were doing. During conversations with us kids, she would provide detailed updates on so-and-so’s nephew’s sister-in-law’s wedding who she had just heard about even though we had no idea who she was talking about.
Despite her seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, she did at times get overwhelmed and frustrated by the constant hustle and challenges. She was human after all. During times like this, she leaned more heavily on her faith in God. Faith was an integral part of her life and she continued to be inspired and grow in her faith – this is evident by the amount of literature, posters, and notes of inspirational messages and reminders that can be found throughout the house.
In short, one could summarize the most important things in her life as faith, family, and friends. She forgave, she loved, and she gave of herself. She was not always graceful but she was always full of grace.
She was not someone who was easily forgotten in life. Our hope is that she will continue to be remembered and that her positive impact on the people around her will be celebrated.